Online disinformation

Online disinformation

Online disinformation is designed to trigger an emotional response. If it raises your eyebrows, it should raise questions.

Disinformation is false information that is deliberately intended to mislead. It is sometimes called “fake news”.

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Voiceover: If it raises your eyebrow, it should raise questions. Check the facts before you share online. Learn more at
Super: Learn more at
Voiceover: A message from the Government of Canada.
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How disinformation harms you

Most of us make decisions about our lives based on information we find online. Those decisions may be about our health, our finances, or other issues affecting our families and communities.

When we base our decisions on bad information, the choices we make may not be in our best interests.


Disinformation makes it harder to find factual content you can trust.

Even if you don’t believe it, disinformation can create doubt and confusion. It can cause you to delay making important decisions that could affect your wellbeing.

Disinformation can continue to influence your beliefs even after you find out something is not true.


Disinformation is particularly harmful when it concerns our health.

COVID-19 disinformation

According to Statistics Canada, 96% of Canadians who found COVID-19 information online saw content they suspected was false.

The Canadian Council of Academies estimates that misinformation about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines cost at least 2,800 lives in Canada in just 9 months.

Anti-vaccine information is often spread by individuals who believe it to be true. However, it is also spread by threat actors, including foreign states, to deliberately deceive and divide people.

Health scams

Disinformation about health and wellness products often appears as sponsored posts on social media or as pop-up ads on websites.

According to the Competition Bureau, the three most common types of health scam are:

  • miracle cures
  • weight-loss programs
  • fake online pharmacies

This kind of disinformation can harm you because:

  • you lose money paying for “treatments” that do not work
  • you are less likely to seek qualified medical help
  • the bogus products may in fact harm your health


Financial disinformation causes harm in various ways.

Bad investments

If you make financial decisions based on false information, you can lose your money to bad investments or scams.

For example, in so-called pump and dump schemes, fraudsters buy a large amount of stock, spread disinformation to boost the price, then sell it off, crashing the price. Investors who believe the hype are left holding stock that is worth a lot less than they paid for it.

Cryptocurrency scams

According to the Competition Bureau, Canadians lost over $300 million to investment fraud in 2022. Many of those victims had fallen prey to deceptive ads on social media urging them to invest in cryptocurrency scams.

Some scams use fake celebrity endorsements to convince people to hand over their money. For example, criminals have used deepfakes of Elon Musk to trick people into cryptocurrency investment scams.

Source: Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Deepfakes: A real threat to a Canadian future


Successful democracies rely on:

Disinformation can damage each of these by attacking, polarizing, and misinforming people. At its worst, disinformation can lead to political harassment, hate and violence.

Disinformation is also used by foreign states seeking to threaten the integrity of our elections and undermine confidence in the results.

Find out more about who is creating disinformation and why.

Tips and tools to spot disinformation

Disinformation can be hard to spot. These tips and tools can help you figure out if something you see online is true or not.

Look out for emotional red flags

Disinformation is designed to trigger your emotions. Shock, anger, fear and laughter all make us more likely to share content with others.

Emotional red flags include content that:

If something you come across online really hits a nerve, consider doing a quick fact-check before sharing it with others.

Use fact-checking tools and services

MediaSmarts offers these 4 tips to check if something is true online:

Do a reverse image search

A reverse image search can reveal if an image has been altered or copied from elsewhere on the internet.

To reverse search an image, copy the image, or the image’s URL into the search bar of an image search tool.

Search results will show if the image appears in other locations on the internet.

Image search tools:

Spot spoof websites

Fake news stories can be posted on fraudulent websites that are made to look legitimate. This is called spoofing.

These tips can help you spot a spoof:

Spot fake social media accounts

Disinformation is often spread using fake social media accounts. The Better Business Bureau recommends these tips for spotting fakes:

Source: Better Business Bureau, How to Spot a Fake Social Media Account

Counter disinformation

You’ve fact-checked a piece of online content and discovered that it is false. What next?

If you do choose to take action, consider these 4 tips from MediaSmarts.

Source: MediaSmarts, Correcting disinformation


Find out more

Use your online influence to spread facts, not fakes. Consider sharing these resources about disinformation with your networks.

Non-government resources from across Canada

Government of Canada resources

International resources

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